Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points, also known as Starpoints, are very valuable. In fact, I pegged their worth at about 2.2 cents each in my last valuation. It’s well known that redeeming Starpoints for hotel redemptions and transfers to airline programs yields a great return but Patty recently used some of her Starpoints a different way. She transferred two batches of SPG points to the Amtrak Guest Rewards program. Find out how much value she got and how long the transfers took, in this post.
Patty’s exploration of Amtrak Guest Rewards started with a baby shower invitation. The shower was scheduled for a location in New York City. We’ve driven into NYC many times, with those driving experiences ranging from terrible to not-bad-at-all. But you just don’t know what you’re going to get. So instead of making the drive across multiple states and into/out of NYC she priced out Amtrak rides.
The cash fares weren’t exactly cheap but Patty noticed that redeeming Amtrak Guest Rewards points for the trips was a possibility. There was one big problem: She didn’t have any Amtrak Guest Rewards points. There happened to be one big solution though also: Transfer SPG points to Amtrak Guest Rewards
Patty added up the points cost for each leg to determine how many SPG points to transfer. The transfer ratio is 1:1 so the calculation was that simple.
How Long Does it Take to Transfer SPG Points to Amtrak Guest Rewards?
The only potential problem with Patty’s planned points transfer was that she knew an SPG to Amtrak transfer doesn’t happen instantaneously. The SPG folks indicated it could take up to seven days. One of the legs she was looking to book showed as having only one more ticket available at the low advertised rate.
Patty decided to go for it. She knew that there was a chance that that one ticket would be purchased and then the point rate would go up, but she figured it was worth the chance. She transferred 5,520 points from SPG to Amtrak. That was enough to cover the roundtrip train ride in coach class.
About 24 hours later the points showed up in her Amtrak Guest Rewards account. Unfortunately the points price on the Amtrak site had gone up for the lower availability leg. That short waiting period had cost her.
She futzed around on the Amtrak site and realized that she could ride business class for not much more than the available coach class rate. She decided to transfer enough SPG points to cover the roundtrip in business class. There didn’t seem to be a shortage of tickets available at the advertised rate so she had some confidence in proceeding.
That second transfer, which was for 3,658 points, took about 48 hours. Once it completed, Patty was able to book her desired roundtrip in business class. There was no issue with ticket prices changing.
How Much Value Did this Starpoint Redemption Yield?
In the end, Patty got a roundtrip business class Amtrak ticket that was going for as much as $375 during the couple days she was transferring points, for only 9,178 Starwood points. That equates to a whopping 4.1 cents/SPG point value! That’s a redemption I’d make every day of the week!
Business Class on Amtrak for a Weekend Ride
Patty’s business class ride was nice and quiet as the business class cabin was nearly empty for the weekend journey. It was a different story in the coach cars – they were heavily populated and thus very noisy.
In the business class car, which was the caboose on this train, Patty was able to relax and read and watch movies in her nice leather seat. For families or groups who want to chat during the ride business class is likely not worth the extra cost in cash or points. Because Patty was riding solo, it was a great fit. Of course you can get cheaper redemptions in coach class than business class. For instance, Patty originally planned to book roundtrip economy seats for 5,520 points total before Amtrak upped the coach class point requirement. In the end she redeemed 3,658 additional points and rode in style and peace in business class.
How to Get Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Points
SPG points are valuable but they can be hard to rack up. The best way to obtain a lump sum of them is through the signup bonus for the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest personal card or business card. Both cards often have signup promos that will yield you 25,000 points but for a limited time you can get up to 35,000 SPG points as a signup bonus for both of them.
Remember that with the Marriott-Starwood merger you can transfer points between the two programs at a rate of 3 Marriott Rewards points to 1 Starpoint. That means a 35,000 SPG point signup bonus could be turned into 105,000 Marriott Rewards points. If you’re interested in Marriott Rewards points or Starpoints I’d suggest jumping on this offer now as it’s set to expire on April 5th.
At the redemption rate Patty obtained for Amtrak Guest Rewards points, 35,000 Starpoints could get you $1,435 of Amtrak travel!
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Do you have experience transferring SPG points to Amtrak, or using the Amtrak Guest Rewards program in general? If so, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!